Amber Stocks, Chicago Sky coach, grew up in nondenominational Christian congregation, mom a choir director, dad a church administrator: “I don’t think you can open up a science book and see the wonders and have doubt of the existence of a magnificent loving creator.”
In first season coaching the WNBA’s Sky, played basketball herself at the University of Cincinnati, previously was an assistant coach at college and pro levels.
Came from a large family in Ohio that played sports, including sister Tamara Stocks, a former WNBA player. “Basketball is, and was, a huge part of our family.”
At 6-feet-8, her dad, James Stocks, played for the Kentucky Colonels in the old American Basketball Association.
“I wouldn’t say he pushed basketball on us, we all gravitated towards it, and it was something that we all could do together. So, on any given Saturday morning, you would see all of us out on the driveway.”
“We grew up in a Christian home, and faith, worship was not just a Sunday thing. It was every day. And so going to church on Sundays was never anything I dreaded as a child. I looked forward to it.”
Between choir, business meetings, bible study and services, her family “was always there . . . The church often became the playground.”
Faith “was just a part of our lifestyle: If you offend somebody, you make amends, and you ask for forgiveness. And if you owe somebody something, you pay ’em back, and you tell the truth . . . Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Our services were pretty standard . . . praise and worship, choir, announcements, sermon, offering.”
“In college, I would say because of . . . my exposure to so many different people . . . and sports gives you that,” she had an “open mindset” about attending different Christian denominations.
“It was more about what the actual messages were that the pastor or the minister was sharing, and so I might have a stint at a Methodist church . . . a Lutheran church . . . Church of God in Christ.
“The denomination has never been a priority to me. It’s been the message.”
The kids in her family sometimes stayed up late on Saturdays, and that meant one Sunday her sister was tired and fell asleep at church.
“We nudged her to wake her up, and she yelled at the top of her lungs, ‘Hallelujah!’ ”
The congregation had been quiet, listening to a sermon.
“We could not stop laughing.”
Stocks, 39, has two kids.
Her dad would cite a bible verse for “comfort” if there was a “rough patch” during the basketball season.
One parable that “was always shared” — and not just in a sports context — emphasized that people should not “bury” their talents.
Being a coach is not just a career to Stocks but “a ministry.”
“To empower, to encourage, to edify, to uplift — which sometimes means to challenge or to admonish.”
“There’s a bigger picture than just winning,” such as “trying to share and lay nuggets along the road that can help somebody on whatever path that they are on.”
“I never felt the . . . urge to pray before a basketball game . . . I never prayed for wins . . . Prayer was a part of life, not . . . basketball.”
What does God look like?
“You, the chair, the tree, the cat walking down the street, the rock that somebody’s using to hold something in place, and nothing. He looks like everything, and She looks like nothing. And She looks like everything, and He looks like nothing.”
A bible passage that’s “become a fabric of my identity” is the one that begins, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.”
“When we’re children, we’re just open to so many possibilities . . . Your soul is open, your mind is open.”
“There are certain gifts that everyone has, and then what do you do? Do you cultivate that and grow that into something magnificent, or let it lay by the wayside?”
“The world we live in today, there are so many tools and vehicles that we have to receive and be fed spiritually, whereas years ago the primary way . . . was to go to a church service.”
“Ministry as a vocation is one type of ministry,” but it’s also “the love you show at the cashier at the grocery store who’s struggling and everybody else is being rude.”
Face to Faith appears Sundays in the Chicago Sun-Times with an accompanying audio podcast, with additional content, available at chicago.suntimes.com and on iTunes and Google Play.
Listen to previous “Face to Faith” podcasts:
- ‘Hood’ and ‘holy’ minister Marilyn Pagan-Banks: Not alone ‘even when you make bad choices,’ July 30, 2017
- Author Patrick T. Reardon: ‘Embrace the pain of life as well as joys,’ July 23, 2017
- Paylocity founder Steve Sarowitz: Baha’i ‘made sense to me right away,’ July 16, 2017
- Candidate Chris Kennedy: ‘I’ve seen the Holy Spirit at work,’ July 9, 2017
- Jail warden Nneka Jones Tapia: ‘I think God is all around us,’ July 2, 2017
- Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera: ‘Let it be God’s will if we lose or win,’ June 25, 2017
- The Mekons’ Sally Timms: ‘Not the kind of atheist who’s down on religion,’ June 18, 2017
- J.B. Pritzker: At times, ‘your faith has to overcome maybe logic,’ June 11, 2017
- Daoud Casewit, American Islamic College president: ‘We’re as American as we are Islamic,’ June 4, 2017
- Public Defender Amy Campanelli: My clients ‘are not evil people,’ May 28, 2017
- James Lovell: ‘We go to heaven when we’re born,’ May 21, 2017
- Michael Magnafichi, one-time ‘rising star’ in Chicago mob: ‘I do say prayers,’ May 14, 2017
- Ald. Ameya Pawar: ‘There’s always the opportunity for redemption,’ May 7, 2017
- Sir the Baptist: ‘I want to be the first hip-hop chaplain,’ April 30, 2017
- Singer Shemekia Copeland: ‘Hell, yeah’ God loves the blues, April 23, 2017